|First appearance||Methuselah's Children|
|Last appearance||To Sail Beyond the Sunset|
|Created by||Robert A. Heinlein|
|Known for||Oldest (fictional) member of the human race|
|Full name||Woodrow Wilson Smith|
|Aliases||Ernest Gibbons, Captain Aaron Sheffield, "Happy" Daze, Proscribed Prisoner No. 83M2742, Mr. Justice Lenox, Dr. Lafayette 'Lafe' Hubert, Corporal Ted Bronson and His Serenity Seraphim the Younger, Supreme High Priest of the One God in All His Aspects and Arbiter Below and Above.|
|Occupation||actor, musician, beggar, farmer, priest, pilot, politician, con artist, gambler, doctor, lawyer, banker, merchant, soldier, electronics technician, mechanic, restaurateur, investor, bordello manager, and slave.|
|Children||Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee|
Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. Born in 1912 in the third generation of a selective breeding experiment run by the Ira Howard Foundation, Lazarus (birth name Woodrow Wilson Smith) becomes unusually long-lived, living well over two thousand years with the aid of occasional rejuvenation treatments. Heinlein "patterned" Long on science fiction writer Edward E. Smith, mixed with Jack Williamson's fictional Giles Habibula.
His exact (natural) life span is never determined. In his introduction at the beginning of Methuselah's Children, he admits he is 213 years old. Approximately 75 years pass during the course of the novel; but because large amounts of this time are spent traveling interstellar distances at speeds approaching the speed of light, the 75-year measurement is an expression of the time elapsed in his absence rather than time seen from his perspective. At one point, he estimates his natural life span to be around 250 years; but this figure is not expressed with certainty. Heinlein acknowledged that such a long life span should not be expected as a result of a mere three generations of selective breeding, but offers no alternative explanation except by having a character declare, "A mutation, of course—which simply says that we don't know".
In Methuselah's Children, Long mentions visiting Hugo Pinero, the scientist appearing in Heinlein's first published story "Life-Line", who had invented a machine that precisely measured lifespan, but who refused to reveal the results of the machine in Lazarus's case and gave Lazarus his money back.
The promotional copy on the back of Time Enough for Love, the second book featuring Lazarus Long, states that Lazarus was "so in love with time that he became his own ancestor," but this never happens explicitly in any of the published books, although one can speculate that the descendent(s) referred to by Heinlein were the identical twins Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee that were cloned from Lazarus. In the book, Lazarus does travel back in time and is seduced by his mother; but this happens after his own birth. Heinlein did use a similar plot in the short story "—All You Zombies—", in which a character becomes both of his own parents.
A rugged individualist with a distrust of authority, Lazarus drifts from world to world, settling down periodically and leaving when the situation becomes too regimented for his taste—often just before an angry mob arrives to capture him.
The Lazarus Long set of books involve time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, individualism, and a concept that Heinlein named World as Myth—the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them, such that even fictional worlds are real.
Novels featuring Lazarus include:
- Methuselah's Children (1941) (serialized magazine version)
- Methuselah's Children (1958) (rewritten novel version)
- Time Enough for Love (1973)
- The Number of the Beast (1980)
- The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985)
- To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)
The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, a book containing sayings of the character Lazarus Long largely taken from Time Enough for Love, was published in 1978.
The Lives of Lazarus Long
When the character of Lazarus Long is introduced in Methuselah's Children, he is 213 years old, and the breeding experiment that created the Howard Families has proven to be a success, with most "Howards" enjoying a lifespan of approximately 150 years and changing identities periodically to conceal their long lifespans. 10% of their number have elected to end "The Masquerade" and live publicly, with the approval of the Howard Foundation; but this process has backfired.
The general public of Earth, once exposed to the Howards' lifespan, believes incorrectly that the Howards have discovered an anti-aging process that they are choosing to conceal, and come to resent them. Civil liberties applied to the Howards are suspended, and the entire membership of the Howard Families is detained, with the exception of Lazarus himself.
With the aid of the elected head of the world government, Slayton Ford, Lazarus hijacks the New Frontiers, a starship designed to travel to distant stars, and liberates the Howards. While the New Frontiers was designed to sustain a colony in travel at speeds significantly below the speed of light, a Howard named Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby raises the ship to speeds approaching lightspeed. With the ship thus modified, the Howard Families, under the leadership of Lazarus Long, escape the solar system in search of a planet of their own.
The first planet they encounter is populated by the Jockaira, an intelligent species that has been domesticated for another, unnamed, species whom they worship as gods. When the latter discover that the humans cannot be domesticated, all of the humans are forcibly removed from the planet and placed in their ship, which is then transferred to another star system and planet by means of technology sufficiently advanced that it is not observable by the humans.
This second planet is populated by a diminutive furry species called the "Little People", who are a very advanced collective intelligence. They are very accommodating to the humans, and in fact their world is pleasant enough to be considered a paradise. After many years, Mary Sperling—a close friend of Lazarus and the second-oldest of the Howard Families—joins the collective intelligence in order to escape thanatophobia; whereupon Lazarus and many other Howards return to Earth. Approximately twelve thousand remain behind.
Upon return to Earth, the Howards learn that a rejuvenation treatment has been developed to approximate the secret of longevity supposedly held by themselves; thus permitting Lazarus, who is grown old, to regain his youth.
Time Enough for Love
At the beginning of this book, Lazarus has grown weary of life and decides to die. He returns to Secundus, where a standing order is in place to notify the Chairman Pro Tempore of the Howard Families if he came on world. He is located and without his knowledge, subjected to rejuvenation at the behest of his descendant Ira Weatheral, Chairman Pro Tempore of the Howard Families, who believes that the society and culture of Secundus are in death throes, and wishes to lead the Families to a new planet named Tertius, having had Lazarus advise him in doing so. Lazarus later agrees, promising to commit suicide if Ira does not meet his demands; and in exchange, Ira orders a search to find Lazarus a new amusement. This search, using a "Zwicky Box", is performed by an artificial intelligence named Minerva, who handles most of the computerized functions of the planetary government, is in love with Ira, and becomes friends with Lazarus. Meanwhile the latter's rejuvenator named Ishtar and Ira's daughter named Hamadryad, both give birth to female clones of him, their Y-chromosome being replaced by an identical copy of the X chromosome, producing "daughters" named Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee. Lazarus' advice to Ira appears alternately as proverbs and as stories.
Lazarus assists Ira in the migration to Tertius; settles the latter; and attempts a trans-temporal journey to Earth, circa 1919-1929; but mistakenly arrives in 1916, there to insinuate himself into his parents' family under the name of "Ted Bronson", whom his grandfather Ira (resembling "The Old Man" of Heinlein's earlier work The Puppet Masters) suspects to be an illegitimate nephew or son of his own. Lazarus also discovers, to his surprise and (initial) shame, a sexual desire of his own mother, Maureen. When his family learns that he has no plans to join the army in World War I, they spurn him, prompting him to enlist as a drill sergeant. His genetic father, Brian Smith, also an officer, makes arrangements for him to go overseas, thinking he is doing "Ted" a favor.
Before deployment, Lazarus again visits his family, whereupon he learns that Maureen is as attracted to him as he is to her. She explains that her husband does not insist on fidelity, although she is careful not to become pregnant by any man but Brian; and being newly pregnant, consummates her attraction to Lazarus himself. Overseas, Lazarus is seriously wounded in combat, but is rescued by his Tertian household.
In The Number of the Beast, the main characters discover a way to travel to fictional worlds, and in the course of their explorations, visit the world of Lazarus Long. Using the technology of these characters' ship (which can travel through space and time), Lazarus snatches his mother out of the time stream at the end of her life and replaces her with a dead clone.
Lazarus also appears as a minor character in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and plays a role in Heinlein's last novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which is the life story of Maureen. In the former novel, Lazarus is revealed at the end of the novel as the father of protagonist Colin "Richard Ames" Campbell; whereas in the latter novel, Maureen as narrator tells a somewhat different version of Lazarus' visit to Earth in 1916-18 and reveals that Lazarus (as Woodrow "Bill" Smith) was the backup pilot of the first lunar expedition.
- William H. Patterson, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, volume 1, Tor Books, 2011, p.273
- Justin Foote the 45th in the (in-fiction) Introduction in Time Enough for Love, p. xvi